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2017-1-20

Gov. McAuliffe to Join March on Washington

By Jessica Nolte and Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe plans to attend the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, when thousands of people are expected to protest Donald Trump’s presidency.

McAuliffe said that he will not attend Trump’s inauguration on Friday but that he has written a letter to the incoming U.S. president and looks forward to working with him on issues that matter to Virginia.

“I will be here working all day doing what the taxpayers are paying me to do, and on Saturday I do have a little free time in the morning, so I will use that time to go up to Washington to do the march,” McAuliffe said Thursday.

McAuliffe said he hopes his presence at the march will send a strong signal to everyone that Virginia is open to everyone. He hopes it will encourage people to move their businesses and their families to the commonwealth.

“Women’s rights have been something that have been fundamental to the core of my being,” McAuliffe said.

His announcement came during a press conference for the Women’s Health Care Caucus. At the event, the governor vowed to veto any bill that he believes would undermine the reproductive rights of Virginia women. McAuliffe criticized Republican proposals that would restrict abortion rights and a resolution passed by the House to declare a day of mourning in Virginia on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

McAuliffe said he will be marching in Washington alongside his wife Dorothy, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington say they hope to “send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.”The permit application for the march estimated that the event would draw about 200,000 participants.

Frank Willard Moseley

Frank Willard Moseley, age 77, of Valentines, VA passed away January 19, 2017.  He was the son of the late Jessie and Mildred Moseley.  He is survived by his children, Troy L. Moseley and Cathy Baird, Tony Moseley and Melinda, Randy Moseley and Jeannie; his grandchildren, Shannon Gibbs and Brandon, Heather Smith and Dave, Brendan Moseley, Joshua Moseley and Noah Moseley; his great grandchildren, Aaron and Addison Gibbs and Fraya Smith; and his brother, Melvin Moseley.  Graveside funeral services will be conducted 11:00 a.m. Saturday at Greensville Memorial Cemetery in Emporia,VA.  The family will receive friends Friday from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Williams Funeral Home, Lawrenceville, VA.  Memorial contributions may be made to Central Volunteer Rescue Squad, P.O. Box 386, Gasburg, VA  23857.

Dr. Christopher D. Imber Joins Roanoke Clinic

Board-certified Family Physician Welcoming New Patients

January 17, 2017 (Roanoke Rapids, NC) – Roanoke Clinic is pleased to announce that Christopher D. Imber, MD, has joined the Roanoke Rapids-based medical practice. The announcement was made today by Will Mahone, Chief Executive Officer at Halifax Regional Medical Center.

“We are pleased to announce that Dr. Imber will be joining the outstanding and talented team of providers at Roanoke Clinic,” said Mahone, “At Halifax Regional, we are committed to ensuring our community has access to the finest medical care possible.”

Roanoke Clinic is part of the Halifax Regional Medical Center family.

“I’m thrilled to be able to join such a highly-regarding medical practice,” said Dr. Imber. “My goal is to make a difference in my patients’ lives, and I take great pride in caring for them the same way I care for my family and friends.”

Dr. Imber brings more than 20 years’ experience in patient care to the community.  He earned his medical degree from Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA, and is licensed to practice medicine in North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and New Jersey. He earned his board-certification in 1998, and is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians. He most recently served as a family physician at a practice located in Emporia, Virginia.

On a personal note, Dr. Imber and his wife Michelle have a blended family, with four daughters ranging in age from 14-18.  When not seeing patients, Dr.

Imber enjoys being in a band that plays at local and regional venues. While he primarily plays guitar, he can also play drums and sing.

Dr. Imber will begin seeing patients on February 1, and is welcoming new and former patients. For more information or to make an appointment, please call Roanoke Clinic 252-537-9176 or visit roanokeclinic.com. The practice is located at 1385 Medical Center Drive in Roanoke Rapids.

Groups Criticize Panel For Not Hiking Minimum Wage

By Jesse Adcock, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Advocacy groups for low-paid workers blasted a Virginia Senate committee for killing two bills that would have raised the minimum wage incrementally over the next three years.

“It is a sad day when politicians prioritize corporate profits over hardworking Virginia families,” said Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia and a member of the Women’s Equality Coalition. “$7.25 is not enough to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head at the same time, and no one who works a full-time job should be living in poverty.”

Supporters of the legislation had hoped Virginia would become the 30th state with a minimum wage above the federally mandated minimum of $7.25 an hour. But on Monday, Republicans on the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted to kill the two proposals:

·         SB 785, proposed by Sen. David Marsden, D-Burke, would have raised the minimum wage to $8 an hour on July 1, to $9 an hour in 2018, to $10.10 an hour in 2019, and finally to $11.25 an hour in 2020. The bill died on an 11-3 vote.

·         SB 978, proposed by Sen. Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, would have raised the minimum wage to $10 an hour on July 1, to $13 an hour in 2018, and ultimately to $15 an hour in 2019. The committee voted 11-2, with one abstention, against the proposal.

“Had we indexed the minimum wage for inflation 40 years ago, it would be $11,” Marsden said. “People are really falling behind.”

He said that by raising the minimum wage in yearly increments, his bill could have been repealed if evidence showed it was hurting the state’s economy. Marsden added that by raising the minimum wage, consumers could reclaim lost buying power that had been lost to inflation during the previous decades.

Representatives from the Catholic Conference, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, workers’ unions and minimum wage employees themselves came to speak in support of the bill.

“We continue to walk beside and around these people always telling them to ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps,’” said Athena Jones, who came from Portsmouth representing home care workers. “But(we) have never given them shoes in the first place.”

Representatives of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the chambers of commerce for Prince William County, Roanoke and the Richmond area opposed the bill.

“Raising the minimum wage does not solve the problem – it only creates new problems,” said Ryan Dunn, a representative from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. “There is no silver bullet for poverty.”

Dunn said that should SB 785 pass, between 10,000 and 31,000 minimum wage jobs would be lost.

Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw of Fairfax pointed out that number of jobs lost would represent a tiny slice of the state population.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the more than 4 million working Virginians in 2015, 50,000 of them earned exactly $7.25 per hour, while 69,000 earned less, because of exceptions to the federal law. (Employees under 20 years old in their first 90 consecutive days of employment, workers who make tips and apprentices can all legally be paid less than the minimum wage.)

“How many of your members pay $7.25?” Saslaw asked the business representatives. “If your business plan requires you to pay $7.25, you don’t have much of a business plan.”

“Some of us have a view that the system does work,” said Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Mechanicsville. “We have a good system in place.”

The committee voted to “pass by indefinitely” both bills, which means they will not be considered further in this session.

Afterward, Julie Emery, executive director of the Virginia Civic Engagement Table and a member of the Women’s Equality Coalition, said she was disappointed by the panel’s actions.

“Yet again, the politicians in Richmond have refused to give the working people of Virginia a raise. This despite the fact that polls show Virginians overwhelmingly favor increasing the minimum wage,” Emery said.

Three bills pending in the House of Delegates, all filed by Democrats, also seek to raise the minimum wage. They are HB 1444, proposed by Del. Sam Rasoul of Roanoke; HB 1771, by Del. Kenneth Plum of Reston; and HB 2309, by Del. Marcus Simon of Falls Church. Those bills have been referred to a subcommittee of the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

Bill Would Exempt Fracking Chemicals from FOIA

By Tyler Hammel, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Open government advocates are alarmed at a legislative subcommittee’s approval of a bill that would hide from the public record the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.

Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, said House Bill 1678 would violate the public’s right to know about possible environmental and health hazards posed by fracking, in which liquids are injected into the ground to extract oil or gas.

“They would shield information from the public and local government and would jeopardize their ability to monitor public health,” Rhyne said.

Last week, a subcommittee of the House General Laws Committee voted 4-3 to recommend approval of the bill, which was sponsored by Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Midlothian. If the full committee agrees, the measure will go to the House floor for consideration.

Robinson, who introduced a similar bill last year, said the bill is intended to protect trade secrets of companies that use hydraulic fracturing, which involves pumping large amounts of water and chemicals into the ground to break open rock formations containing natural gas and oil.

The bill would exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information Act “chemical ingredient names, the chemical abstracts number for a chemical ingredient, or the amount or concentration of chemicals or ingredients used to stimulate a well.”

Robinson noted that her measure includes exceptions for health care providers and first responders in the event of an emergency. They would be able to access the information about chemicals from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.

“The industry has been fracking in Virginia for decades without any disclosure requirements and with a remarkable record of safe natural gas production,” Robinson said.

At last Thursday’s subcommittee meeting, Miles Morin, executive director of the Virginia Petroleum Council, spoke in favor of the bill. He said it strikes a balance between protecting the industry’s secrets while maintaining full disclosure to regulators.

“With this protection, Virginia would still have one of the strongest chemical disclosure requirements in the country,” Morin said.

Fracking has attracted attention in recent years for potential pollution in places such as Pavillion, Wyoming, where former EPA scientist Dominic DiGiulio published a report connecting contaminated water to fracking waste.

Opponents of Robinson’s bill, including Travis Blankenship of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, said the measure would prevent landowners from knowing about chemicals that could affect their well water.

“We feel this legislation goes far beyond protecting the competitive trade secrets the legislation attempts to get at and actively prevents landowners from knowing chemicals affecting their drinking water,” Blankenship said.

Another opponent, Emily Francis of the Southern Environmental Law Center, said the bill would put trade secrets in a black box hidden from citizens and could pose dangers for local governments.

“Specifically, we are concerned that localities would not have access to this information ahead of time in order to prepare for any potential accident,” Francis said.

The bill contains language that would allow for emergency personnel and first responders to be informed of the chemicals used in fracking in the event of an emergency. But Rhyne fears this would not give first responders enough time to prepare and would put them at risk.

“This is not quite the same, but in 9/11 there were so many people exposed to the chemicals in fluorescent light bulbs that exploded during the towers’ collapse,” Rhyne said. “You’re exposed to chemicals, and then you develop illnesses later.”

Robinson has a similar bill, HB 1679, scheduled to be heard Wednesday by the Natural Resources Subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources.

HB 1679 would require fracking chemicals exempted under HB 1678 to be disclosed to the director of the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. It would allow the director to disclose the chemical information to state and local officials assisting in an emergency but would prevent further dissemination.

Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Lebanon, has filed two virtually identical bills in the Senate. SB 1291 has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources, and SB 1292to the Senate Committee General Laws and Technology.

House OKs Bill to Ease Rule on Concealed Gun Permits

By Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The Virginia House of Delegates approved a bill Wednesday to allow members of the military to obtain concealed handgun permits at age 18.

HB 1582, introduced by Del. Jeff Campbell, R-Marion, passed by a vote of 78-19. It will now go to the Senate for consideration.

The bill would allow active-duty military personnel and those with an honorable discharge between the ages of 18 and 20 to receive concealed handgun permits, provided they have completed basic training. The current minimum age for a concealed handgun permit is 21.

Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase a handgun from a licensed firearm dealer. However, Virginians between 18 and 20 can legally buy a handgun in a private sale or receive one as a gift.

Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, cited that reason in opposing the bill.

“We don’t think it’s smart to let 18- and 19- and 20-year-olds who can’t legally purchase a firearm from carrying concealed,” he said when the bill was debated Tuesday.

Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge, disagreed.

“I see no harm at all in trusting young men and women who were ready to give their lives for our freedom” to have a concealed handgun permit, he said.

Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpepper, echoed Lingamfelter.

“We don’t seem to have any problem putting a gun in their hands when they’re going to go overseas to get shot at,” he said. “So this whole idea that we can’t trust them when they come back to exercise the very constitutional amendment they went overseas to defend seems a little bit ridiculous to me.”

Campbell said the bill also would increase concealed handgun permit reciprocity with other states.

Currently, Virginia permits are recognized throughout the Southeast except in Georgia. Campbell said his bill would change that by “removing the sole impediment to recognition of Virginia concealed carry permit holders by the state of Georgia,” thereby granting permit holders full passage throughout the southern I-95 corridor.

“As a practical matter, this is a good bill for those of us who like to travel out of state on the East Coast,” Lingamfelter said.

Campbell said the bill is another step toward his party’s goal of concealed handgun permit reciprocity across all 50 states. Currently, Virginia permits are recognized in 32 states.

Simon said he fears that in expanding reciprocity, Virginia may be headed down a slippery slope.

“We’re going to have to lower our standards in state after state after state to make sure that our laws are just as generous to concealed carry permit holders and that we have the lowest standards of any state in the country,” Simon said. “It is the first step in having us liberalize our concealed carry permits to go to the lowest common denominator.”

Permit reciprocity has been a hot-button issue among Virginia officials. In December 2015, Attorney General Mark Herring revoked Virginia’s permit reciprocity agreements with 25 states.

However, during its 2016 session, the General Assembly passed legislation reversing Herring’s decision and restoring all previous reciprocity agreements.

With Donald Trump’s election as president, the issue of permit reciprocity has risen to prominence at the federal level. This month, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., introduced the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 in Congress.

Hudson’s proposal would force all 50 states to recognize permits from all other states. The bill is awaiting hearing in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.

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